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04/05/08 6:54 PM ET
Eaton solid, but Phils can't hold on
Howard gets first dinger of the season; Utley notches sixth RBI
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- It's a start. Though dejected at the 4-3 final score and the late "bad fastball" he threw to Corey Patterson that tied the score, Adam Eaton gave the performance the Phillies hoped for when the team signed him before the 2007 season. "Well, we lost," he said, after allowing three runs in 7 2/3 innings. "You want to give your team a chance to win and I was able to do that. It was a good start, but at the same time, it wasn't good enough." Considering Eaton's first season in Philadelphia -- a 10-10 record and a 6.29 ERA may sound familiar -- Saturday's effort was plenty good enough. The right-hander lasted 7 2/3 innings just once in his 2007 campaign, and went seven or more innings in only four of 30 outings, with the last one coming June 11. His afternoon began with a four-pitch walk to Patterson, who stole second and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 Reds lead. The second inning started with a single by Adam Dunn, a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and a single by Scott Hatteberg, making it 2-0. Eaton cruised after that, setting down 16 of the next 18 batters, and using just 78 pitches through the first seven innings. He acknowledged some luck during that span, as he retired Ken Griffey Jr. on two long fly balls to right and center field. "He did a hell of a job," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Once he got on track, he had some quick innings. It's been a long time since we've seen him have his pitch count down like that. He had a good rhythm going." So did Cincinnati ace Aaron Harang, who allowed two runs in seven innings. His biggest test on the chilly, 54-degree day came in the sixth, in which he escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam. Harang gave way to Kent Mercker after the seventh, and Ryan Howard clobbered a mammoth homer that landed in front of the smoke stacks in center field, putting the Phillies ahead by a run. The home run helped Howard's state of mind after missing two other home runs earlier in the game by a few feet each. The lead was short-lived, as Patterson cracked his homer off Eaton. Chad Durbin took over in the ninth and walked Dunn and Encarnacion, putting the Phillies at an immediate disadvantage. Norris Hopper pinch bunted the runners to second and third. The Phillies opted to pitch to Paul Bako versus walking him to load the bases and set up a force anywhere. Top prospect Joey Votto, who grounded into a double play in the eighth, loomed on deck. Pitching Bako carefully, Durbin said he threw a 2-1 pitch about "a foot outside" that he thought Bako would take, but "he swung at it and put it in a perfect place." Too perfect: Rollins had to field the ball cleanly, transfer it to his hand and throw a strike to the plate in one motion. If any of those three things are off, game over. "We went after him," Rollins said. "We got the right ball, just in the wrong place. Six inches closer to me, and I can set my feet and he's out easy. After fielding it cleanly, you hope you can come up with a great play. I couldn't come up clean, so I couldn't come up with a great play." Rollins said he had trouble gripping the ball, and his irrelevant throw to first conceded that. "Out of all the line drives and rockets hit today, that's what wins it," Rollins said. "That's how it goes sometimes."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.